The Gentle Giant

moby

Moby

When Moby was a kitten his paws were extraordinarily large. Most kittens are all eyes and head, Moby was all paws. He had the biggest kitten-paws I have ever seen. Everyone remarked about it. A friend of mine was completely bowled over by Moby’s paws, her eyes wide, “Will you look at the size of those paws!” She was floored, amazed. Several of the cats have Maine Coon characteristics: long hair, feathered bushy tails, thick ruff, large body, long legs — big cats. One of the sweetest things about Maine Coons are the tufts of fur between their toes that makes them look like they’re wearing poofy slippers. Tufted toes = Maine Coon haha. Large paws go with large bodies, Moby’s are bigger than any of the other Coon types here:  Viktor Kapukin and Zorro, who both have the dark and varied stripe patterns, Leo and Ginger Baker (both of whom are golden-furred) and Taj, the beautiful pewter-colored—who is no longer with us.) Clearly there are Maine Coon genes in the colony, Viktor and Zorro could pass as Maine Coons with breeding papers. Some of the others have a Coon/American Shorthair mix of design and then the rest are who they are. We have quite a few Tortoise-shell cats, three are long-haired “pale torties” (light gray, gold, tan and white patches), Bo-Peep, Candi and Turina, and then some dark torties with long hair (Gebo and Tindi), and some dark with short hair (Kukla, Tucci and DiamondGirl and Cookie—who is no longer with us) and Pearl the short-haired pale torty. She’s called PearlyPearl, it’s just something that evolved. Deolinda also was a short-haired pale torty, another unforgettable creature who was adopted a few years ago). There are several who have both torty and tiger markings mixed, like Danika.

Ali and PearlyPearl as kittens

Ali and PearlyPearl as kittens

Deolinda the day before her adoption

Deolinda the day before her adoption

Moby was born to Elsa, the second feral queen and the slipperiest cat I have ever encountered. Elsa could not be caught. She could outsmart and baffle any professional team. As for myself, since there were no intact males inside then, it didn’t seem necessary to rush things with Elsa. Even though I didn’t stop trying. Persuasion takes longer but to me it is much better. She died before ever having been spayed because no one could catch her, even after she came inside the shelter, even in the enclosed rooms, she always got away. One time a team of three pros spent 3 hours trying to corral her and finally gave up. Another time a group of rescue volunteers were similarly frustrated in their efforts to grab her, they even had a large net, but she got away. She just quietly passed 4 years ago in January during the night, curled up in her tent. It was sudden, there were no warnings or prior indication of illness or discomfort. It seems like she died the way she lived, on her own terms. The day before her passing, at feeding time, she ate well, with gusto. She was always among the first to come out for food. Who gets to eat first is a definitive status indicator with feral cats (and domestic cats as well in some cases). She was the reigning queen, and took the benefits of privilege routinely. That next day, I thought it was strange that Elsa didn’t come out at feeding time. She would always pop out at the first whiff of fresh wet food. I called her, but no answer. I put the food down and went to her usual haunt, a fleece kitty tent on top of a cot. She was curled up, I could see her in there. “Elsa, Elsa!” I whispered — no response. I felt a bolt of electricity switch up my shoulders. I reached in and touched her, and her body was cold. My stomach hit the cement floor. Elsa! Oh! It took my breath away. A gray fog come over me, I couldn’t move, I just stood there at first, then I fragilely wrapped her blankets around her, lifted her out of the tent so the others could see her, but it was as if they already knew. Most of them didn’t eat, just Rocky* and Tara (2 of the 6 in the litter Elsa brought inside the first time—another whole chapter about how I got them to come inside without using traps) went in for a nibble. I went upstairs and called for help, I couldn’t do it alone, too devastated. Everything changed in the shelter after the day Elsa died.

Elsa in the wild circa 2003

Elsa in the wild circa 2003

Elsa was a beautiful cat and an amazing kitty-mama, she was gentle yet street-smart and wise. She was graceful (not all of them are—some are burly, maybe even clumsy) and perfectly lovely. I will never forget her soulfulness, intelligence and sweetness. Tink, especially, changed a lot after Elsa’s passing, he was so in love with her. He’s never been the same. Tink will probably have difficulty being adopted, he’s an older cat now with a “skittish on the one hand, bold on the other” personality, but he’s been allowing me to pet him lately, just at the back of his neck. I had to back off a few months ago when in an attempt to pet him, he whipped his claws out and got me in my right thumb. When a few weeks passed after that and he realized I’d stopped trying to pet him, he came forward and asked for it — I complied, gingerly. He’s actually a funny guy, a comic and prankster, but he’s reclusive and passive as well. I have other stories about those subjects, for later. Cat personalities are not that simple:)

There were two kittens in Elsa’s last litter, Moby and his sibling Zippy. They’re almost 5 years old now, and different in physical features (Zippy is not a large cat, he’s a short-haired light gray male—who has astonishingly big round eyes) but they’re very similar in character, except that Zippy is less comfortable with human touch. Moby has grown into the largest cat in the shelter. He weighs 22 pounds and looks like a small bear. He’s also the gentlest—a quiet and meditative cat.

Everything about Moby is sensitive, yet laid back, unassuming. I think of him as a boddhisatva cat materialized on the planet to make us weep with joy. His eyes are globes of deep calm. He’s perpetually unruffled, easy-going and all-accepting. Even though he’s bigger than Julio, whom I wrote about earlier as the most likely candidate for King, his personality would likely have kept him below that lofty post in the wild. He’s relaxed by nature —  and, he seems to understand it’s a waste of energy once indoors to behave as if we all were still outside in the colony, vying for the top spot. There’s plenty aplenty for one and all—Moby “gets” that, he’s chill. Or maybe it’s just because he IS so big. He just wants to relax, it’s work to move that body around. Don’t get the wrong idea, he’s not obese, he’s just BIG. Moby says “no, thank you, no Kingliness for me” and the “thank you” is genuine. Moby is one cat who is always saying “thank you” in one way or another, he’s unspoiled and innocent that way. He has enough heft to beat out any other cat for the prime food spot, but he won’t. In fact, he often retreats at feeding time, politely waiting for the others to eat first. He’ll hesitate to come forward even if a special plate is prepared just for him (we usually feed cafeteria-style, several laden trays)—but Moby is one who needed to be “brought out” and part of that is learning to eat from one’s own dish.  He’ll look around to see if any of the others might want it. Then I have to coax him, and predictably he acts like the heavens just dropped manna on him, he’ll dance around the dish for several turns, interspersed with eye-contact and shin-rubbing, and finally he’ll settle in to eat. And if I stay there and watch over him, he’ll take short breaks and look up at me for a few seconds between bitefuls. There is something very soulful about Moby, a soul model inherited from Elsa, I like to imagine.

I’ve been told by an expert that personality characteristics in cats usually come from the paternal side. I haven’t researched the concept, but it was stated by someone with a PHD. Still, in Moby’s case, he really seems to have inherited Elsa’s gentleness, his gentleness is mellow, an amiable Stradivarius. I don’t know who the father was. It’s difficult to say with feral cats, though I witnessed a number of howling-time matings outside in the colony. For instance, Tindi, when she was still out, in broad daylight openly mating with 2-3 different males. My cohort that day joked “What a hussy!” But it’s not uncommon, and in fact a queen can carry kittens conceived with different males all at the same time, don’t ask me how or why. But it is also true that sometimes when a queen is already pregnant, another dominant male may force mating on her, and usually when that happens the kittens she carries are spontaneously aborted. It is one of nature’s ways of consolidating the aggression genes, aggression is life-saving in the wild. Sad but true.

The result of Tindi’s spree were her last litter born outside. They didn’t survive. She came in a few months later, pregnant again, that litter was born in the closet of my bedroom, all were well, healthy and adopted at 12 weeks, except Tylo. He stayed with us for three years. Tylo is another subject entirely. Much beloved, really someone special. He liked to hang out in the studio with me, one time he got green paint on his paws and did some artwork on the floor.

Portrait of Tylo at 5 months

Portrait of Tylo at 5 months

Even though ASPCA statistics show an astounding increase in feral population, in this colony, survival is not a given. These feral queens have to keep trying over and over just to have one or two survive out of several litters. Of course if even a few survive, there eventually will be more, but the truth is, they most often don’t, especially in winter, and yes, there are kittens born in winter, especially where there is a trustworthy food source, I’ve helped with winter litters a number of times. And then, adult ferals rarely live beyond 5 years. I’ve watched them come and go. Whenever there are feral cats I’ve seen repeatedly for a year or more at the outdoor feeding station, I’m saddened but not surprised when they disappear. There is one female named Bootsie, who’s been a queen in the colony since 2010. A very smart cat, she avoided the traps and kept having kittens. She would come to the feeding station every day like clockwork. I haven’t seen her in two weeks. She has gone missing before and then come back, those disappearances were due to kitten-births, but it would only be for 2-3 days, and then she’d show up, ravenous and ultra-hurried. Sure sign of tiny kittens somewhere nearby in a nesting place. Bootsie may have used up the last of her nine lives. I’ll keep you posted if she shows up again, you never know…..*

Moby is a highly adoptable cat, but his size seems to put people off. I explain that he’s most amiable and easy-going, but prospective families and individuals tend to overlook him, at least so far. But he is a very special cat, and whomever should ever want to adopt him will be scrutinized mercilessly. To make sure he/she/they can give him what he needs:  an even temperament, a good heart, peace and merriment, good food, space for playtime, a window perch and a lot of love. Looking forward to finding someone who is equally as gentle as Moby is, to live happily ever after in a perfect pairing/combining (if there are other cats also in the home) of characters.

________

*Rocky is what might be called a “slow” cat. One of the borrowed volunteers from a shelter nearby called him “a pig”, meaning a big slob, not an intelligent creature. I did not appreciate that, a label like that reveals the labeler as having a basically cruel attitude, even if said in jest, which this wasn’t. This was spoken with disgust. Shameful for someone who works with animals to say that under any circumstance. But yes, Rocky is the only cat who will sit in front of a television and stare at it. There is some folklore out there that states cats who watch TV aren’t that smart. It’s all attitude. Some people who watch TV aren’t that smart either, and some are quite smart haha. Any comments or input on the cats-watching-tv-are-not-that-smart concept would be most appreciated.

youngrocky

rocky

Rocky in a reverie

* I saw Bootsie today, two days after I posted this entry. She is VERY pregnant. Wonders never cease.
 
 
 

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Shelter

reposted from April 16, 2013

from the storm

Here are pictures of some of the cats. Two of them, Meemo and Markus, are no longer with us, but the rest now have full access, from the garage-shelter to the main house. Right now, with the season changing, my main concerns are:

1. Finding a way to groom Taj, Rocky, Julio, Izzy, Sowelo, Webster, Anjou and Turina (see some of their photos below) of matted fur, which was something new that happened this year over the winter. It may be that they are getting older, I just don’t know why and what caused it. I wonder if it may have been the diatomaceous earth that was sprinkled repeatedly around the shelter last fall to kill fleas, even though it was food grade, they might not have liked licking it off of their fur, but I don’t know. The matting affected s/h and l/h’s equally. Some of the cats had smaller harmless clumps, which eventually fell off. Piph, however, developed a serious mohawk on his back, but because he is easy to handle, I was able to help him. What came off looked like a Conan O’Brien toupee’. Same with Fantasia, who allowed tender attempts at clipping over several weeks, but Anjou, though he is friendly and easy-going, is too short-haired for me to be able to help him without risk of injuring his skin, given my grooming tools are basic, pro tools are outside of the current budget and most of the cats would be too scared anyway. Professional grooming services are far too expensive for these cats to be able to keep eating while the few get groomed, and unfortunately, I have tried to set up grooming appointments nonetheless, and have had to cancel because the cats just couldn’t be on time for their appointments or handled, including Anjou, who freaked out when he got into the mobile grooming van. And Izzy, for instance, still doesn’t tolerate being touched, and it is a long-term if not fruitless process to get him to do anything, let alone tricking him into a carrier or cage. Forcing is out of the question, having been responsible for dealing with the emotional repercussions of forced trapping and confinement, I wouldn’t opt for anything like that again.

2. Keeping the shelter flea-free. Last spring/summer we were almost home free, until September, then we got hit, and I had to spend over six hundred dollars for medications. If flea meds turn out to be needed, the funds for such may not be easy to come by this season. Not to put faith in the wrong thing, but to be prepared. We also have large catnip bills. So if you would like to help, secure donations can be made via Paypal by clicking the Donate button in the sidebar.

3. Renting or buying a floor cleaning machine that will be able to handle the concrete floor.

4. Finding more good people willing to adopt older ex-feral cats.

Taj

Taj Mahal

Bo-Peep

Bo-Peep

Valiente

window to the back roomOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sowelo and Fantasia

Sowelo and Fantasia

Turina

zorro

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Izzy Izzy

Anjou

Anjou

Anjou

Kerouac

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

front room, garage shelter

back room, shelter

the night club

the night club

Adopting a Special Cat

Before even getting into it, I have to tell you that in general they do much better in pairs or more, however this might not be the case with a select few, like Julio.

Julio

Julio

The closer I get to Julio the more I realize how distinctive and different he is — his personality, levels of aggression, receptivity, intellect and emotion. He is unique. I have an idea behavior traits of ex-feral cats in captivity relate to the hierarchical system “inbred” in cats in general (the factors of who’s the boss essentially, and who’s the queen, and who will or won’t be tolerated or accepted, and the varying levels of subservient roles). Perhaps these “rules” are more prominent in feral cats in the wild.

At any rate, without a doubt I believe Julio would have been King Alpha of the Colony had he not been neutered and had he lived in the feral colony. The fact is, he was born in shelter, of a feral mother, and absorbed that behavior style. So I was not anticipating seeing tiers of dominance flesh out the same way they would in the wild, yet upon closer observation, these traits are distinguishable. In Julio’s case, not subtly. Though to be able to state that the hierarchy is more distinct (to the human eye at least) in the natural environment I would have had to do a serious field study.  Camped out or “lived” in the colony, followed, tracked, and observed everything.  Believe me there is already enough to follow track and observe right here/now as the new behavior model (domestication) has been introduced and continues to be “taught”. Also and importantly, changes that result from spaying/neutering affect the behavior patterns, and all of these interwoven factors can tend to skew any predictability based on the study model. And cats are unpredictable by nature anyway, or so it seems.

Julio’s continual assertion of space dominance (however he doesn’t “mark” and neither do any of the male cats since neutering, he just oversees all areas and will occasionally boot someone else out of a prime spot he wants to occupy), his constant wandering, his extremely high level intellect, as well as his strong muscular body,  would have brought him to the top level in a colony—he is patriarch material so to speak. Not to mention his tendency to bully, and how that keeps me on my toes! He is a unique combination of force and quietude. Most cats show contentment, Julio shows quietude which a a different thing. So I am seeing Julio as a single cat adoption and not because of any aggressive tendencies necessarily, but because the mixture of feral and domestic qualities in him are unusual, and I think his needs might be best translated if he were the King of all Attention in a domestic household where there would be no contenders, a secure position he can’t hold in the shelter without the other meeker cats getting into trouble. And the one thing about Julio that I really “get” is that he just wants to be worshipped basically, which is a quality lots of people love in a house cat, because it is so sincere and then also because his vitality is often highly entertaining, he would be a fun cat for the right people to have in the right home.

Julio is 4 years old now and  he continues to catch up on assimilating domesticity, he is very smart and independent, so we are looking for a suitable home where he can be the ONLY cat and see how that works. The contract for adoption is free, and it clearly states that the animal can be re-admitted to the shelter if an adoption situation doesn’t work right for whatever reason. It might be thought of as a fostering period pre-adoption in some cases.

For more information on adopting a cat(s) or someone like Julio, please email me here or leave a comment with a link to your site.

Three of a Kind

Kukla is a very shy but beautiful cat, she is 3 years old, very petite and her tortoise-shell patterns are so unique and distinctive — she looks like she’s wearing an argyle sweater, the front of her chest especially, and she has “twinkle toes” where patches of pale yellow/orange and creamy white pop. It has taken 3/4 of her lifetime to teach her to become approachable, while she is still averse to petting, at least she will come near and have eye contact (as shown in the photo). Danika, approximately 4 years old, a mix of torty/tiger, with the yellow diamond on her forehead and Leo, also around 4 years old, the long-haired blondie, have the same type of personalities. They watch, they allow me to come close, but they don’t accept petting. Not just yet, but soon to come I’m sure, as I’ve seen this seemingly fearful-of-touch phenomena before, and in most cases, time, patience and consistency have worked in overcoming this feral reluctance. I just happened to take this photo, and thought it was a lovely one, so here they are in their feline felicity.

Kukla (foreground), Danika (in the middle) and Leo (at the back)

Kukla (foreground), Danika (in the middle) and Leo (at the back)


 
 
 
 

Titus

Mothers Day. Don’t forget I sleep here, right above the shelter. 5 a.m., woke to pain cries.

Downstairs I find Titus, whose 7th birthday would be coming up shortly, he’s near the foot of the stairs in the mud-room.

I’m groggy and barefoot and the stone floor is cold. It takes me a few seconds to realize he’s in big trouble. He’s laying curled up in Gebo’s usual favorite spot, a little “hutch” next to the abandoned exerciser, the stepper my brother bought for me some years ago that now serves as a stanchion, a divider of space. He looks normal at first, then I notice he’s curled up oddly, rub my eyes, “what’s going on with him?” I wonder, clearly something’s wrong. It doesn’t look right the way he’s laying there, he’s intermittently crying and whimpering — then I see. He hoists himself up on his front legs and pulls out of the little conclave, dragging flacid back legs behind him.

He literally screams at intermittent stages of movement. Clearly he is paralyzed, suddenly, inexplicably, overnight, and he’s obviously in pain. I feel shock, panic, it’s a Sunday morning, there’s only one veterinary hospital open on Sundays and it’s a long ride away, and what on earth happened? He was absolutely solid last night at the midnight check. I can’t believe what I’m seeing. For the first time in a long time I feel like I just don’t know what to do. I feel clueless, and then I stop paying attention to that feeling and try to think.

I think of calling the rescue org, but it’s Mothers Day, it’s dawn, I can’t find the cell-phone number of the rescue professional there who had worked closely with me a year or so ago.

I go online to try to look it up, I get to the website and the person I’m seeking isn’t listed there. There’s no emergency personnel or phone listed, only the main office, which is closed this early on a Sunday.

But there are a lot of new articles and a celebrity endorsement video and a long list of hefty grants that have been awarded, and the usual rummage of spin.

I feel sick at heart and realize I’m going to have to take charge, but I’m not awake yet, really. I think “I should get some coffee” — I was up ’til 3 last night and I’m exhausted. But I can’t be exhausted right now, or stop long enough to brew a pot. Throw water on my face, pull on my jeans, grab a shirt, no socks, and my rainboots. Titus is crying piteously. I look up the number of the emergency hospital, call there, explain, and am calmly told to bring him in immediately. Before hanging up, I mention I’ll need to apply for the Sampson Fund. I’m told the protocol is to apply for “CareCredit” first. I’m not sure what it is, so I have to google it, then I find it, apply, am turned down. Call the hospital again, am told to come in anyway, but to be prepared to pay 20% even with Sampson, which they aren’t sure I’ll qualify for, and then I’ll have to pay in full if I don’t qualify. I tell her I am absolutely broke, and I am. And it’s Sunday, and I expect a check this week but I don’t have a clue when it will arrive. I stop at the ATM and take out a twenty, leaving 56 in the account. I shuffle the credit cards in my mind, trying to remember which one still has some lee-way. Meanwhile, Titus can’t wait. I feel awful, I feel wretched, I feel, forgive the harshness of the words, like a failure. I don’t have any celebrity endorsements or PR about my victories with gov’t institutions, or rally cries to defend this or that preferred system. I’m just here trying to do the work out of my own pocket and I can’t pay a lawyer just now to wade through the edicts in order to gain tax-free status. Oh, I’d started on that route several years ago, but the actual work had to take precedence over the endless stream of convoluted red tape. Excuse me for the overt cynicism. It’s been a long day.

Luckily, Titus had moved himself into a box against the wall while I was phoning, googling, applying and dressing. I shove the door of the extra large carrier up against the box and, thank God for small miracles, Titus just ups and drags himself into the carrier. I grab my bag, a folder with the taxes and the CareCredit rejection papers, my raincoat because it’s pouring outside, and Titus, and pile us all into the car and take off for the highway. On the way I feel weak, a shadow of myself. I just want to get there, but I don’t want to face what’s coming, because I sense it may not be good. I take a breath and say a quick prayer of thanks for at least having the car and the gas to get there. I tell myself the Universe won’t let me down. I struggle to believe it, but get into a battle of doubt and finally exit the whole thought pattern. I keep driving. Titus keeps crying.

We arrive. A car pulls in just a minute ahead of me, and a couple with their tiny carrier in tow pop through the door before me. They aren’t urgent, and they are chatting leisurely. I sit down, putting Titus on the bench beside me. I decide to remain calm, after all, we are here now, and that is good. I manage to smile at the cute little shih tzu puppy the couple has let romp out of the cage. She starts barking, furiously. Titus is sitting quietly, watching the scene. Finally they sit down, and someone walks by and peeks into Titus’s carrier, he is lying there, probably looking like a normal cat resting, and she says “HI, kitty cat!” and smiles at me. I manage to groan a return smile. I feel awful. Finally the young woman at the desk calls me over. “I’m the one who called earlier about the cat with sudden paralysis” I say, “was it you I spoke to?” She looks blank for a minute and doesn’t answer. “Are you Sarah?” I ask.

“Oh” she says, “It was Sarah”. Ok I don’t care who it was so I tell her again what I’ve seen and why we’re here.  A few minutes of her asking and typing and me answering questions. I have to give my social, because I’ve asked for Sampson Fund, I’m very uncomfortable, this whole thing is scary.

I sit back down with Titus and wait, I don’t know how long it was. I’m trying to corral my thoughts, talk to Titus, reign in my nerves. Then a tall lady with dark curly hair calls Titus’s name, I bounce into action. She tells me she’s the assistant and will be taking vitals, etc. as she leads us into the exam room. Once on the table, Titus is snarling when she tries to touch him, so she gives up on that for the moment, tells me she’s going to talk to the doctor and comes right back after a minute. “We have another emergency right before you,” she says, “so it may be a few minutes, but you can just stay here and wait, OK?” “OK,” I say, weakly.

It seems like forever. But finally a petite and wiry smooth-haired blonde lady comes in and introduces herself as the doctor. I’m immediately relaxed in her presence, she is like a glass of water in a drought. She apologizes for making us wait, but I’m just glad she’s here now. She looks me directly in the eye and thus ranks up to a high level on my sincerity chart. I tell her everything I know, and what I don’t know. I mention cryptococcus, because I’d read that was one of the things that could cause sudden paralysis, but can be treated. I’m hoping she can fix him.

She has to take Titus away to a larger room because she’s needing some helpers to handle him, and asks me to wait there, politely, as if giving me the choice to refuse to wait and insist upon going with her. I readily comply, I just want him helped asap. I also don’t want to be in the way.

Another long while passes, she pops her head in and tells me they aren’t quite done, but that Titus is behaving very well and is compliant. “Good” I think, “at least he’s not fighting.” Another long wait. Then the door opens.

I knew from her first sentence, I wanted to interrupt and say “I know, I know” but she had a whole lot of diagnostic possibilities to report. I sat listening, nodding my head. I felt like one of those rear window bobble-head puppets.

“I know I shouldn’t even have to be bringing this up” she says, “but we COULD send him up to Angel Memorial and have him tested, get xrays, etc etc. and try a course of treatment, but he might be paralyzed anyway no matter what we do, but we’re looking at $1800 minimum, $360 of which you’d need to pay today. But I don’t think there is any guarantee that even with that, his prognosis would get any better. I suspected a thrombosis of some type that took out his spinal cord at the third lower vertebrae, consistent with cardiomyopathy, which his high heart-rate would indicate, but I’ve never seen this level of compete paralysis in a cardio case. I also suspect it may be some kind of tumor or carcinoma, but I don’t know.”

“and cryptococcus?” I ask, just to say something, knowing it really won’t matter at this point, and she says “it’s possible, he does have a bump on the bridge of his nose, but I think that may be a separate issue, because crypto isn’t common around here, that is something usually found in the South, in warm climates, but it’s not impossible, if he goes outside and there are pidgeon droppings around.” “He doesn’t go out.” I say, “but there are pidgeons around the area who come to the bird feeders, and the cats often sit in the window and watch them.” “It is possible,” she says, “but not likely. (pause — I know what’s coming, she is gauging me intensely)

“I would suggest…”

I can’t stand it any more so I say it for her. “We need to put him to sleep.” I don’t say “euthanasia.” I probably sound old-fashioned. “Well,” she says, “with your budget and his poor prognosis anyway, I think it would be the most humane decision, but Sampson won’t cover euthanasia. I hate to be talking about money right now, but…”

Now I’m dropping pearls of sweat down my back. “It’s OK, I understand. Will Sampson at least cover the exam?” I ask. “I came with a 20 in my pocket and a couple of extra dollars, thinking I was going to have to pay 20% of the exam fee, and I have a little credit on a card I could use for 20% of any other charges beyond that, but I was going for Sampson. And if I can’t get Sampson, I can’t pay in full today.” She says “I will have to check on that, I’ll be right back.” What kind of health care, either veterinary or human, ISN’T about money? I’ve seen the top floor velvet suites as Mass General. I’ve had state low-income health coverage. I know all about it. I’ve, sadly, become used to it. I’m worrying that I won’t be able to even put him to sleep and dreading a prolonged suffering for Titus if I can’t. I tell myself there’s got to be a way, even though I was already informed that this hospital does not extend credit.

She comes back, and tells me that Sampson “is only for cases where the animal can be treated, it doesn’t cover either the office visit prior to a euthanization, or the euthanizing itself.” “What about his body?” I ask. She tells me it will be $69 for a “group cremation”, the least expensive option. “Or you can take him with you and it’s nothing.” I tell her I can’t pay today, that I’ll take him, and what can we do? She asks me if I have any money at all to give them today and I tell her about the 20% I came with. We kind of parlay silence for a while, it’s a lot like what happens in the Pawn Stars tv reality show after Rick offers a price and the seller was expecting much more than the offer. And finally she says “We’ll do it and you will have to set something up at the front desk. Now, would you like to be present?”

I must say I am relieved to hear that last question. “Yes, if I can, please.”

“OK, if we can get a line into his vein, you can come in. If not, I’d rather you didn’t because it is going to be harder for us to do it. Let me go check with the girls in the back. Just before I came in to see you, they were trying to get a line into his front leg.”

The door closes behind her and I am praying that they get the line in now. Just praying to be able to say good-bye, but not very hopeful. I feel blessed when she returns and tells me I can come in.

Titus is on a table in the large surgical area. They didn’t want to move him into the softly-lit special room usually used for euthanasia. He’d already been given a sedative. I leaned in and kissed him and stroked his head and told him he was a good boy and “I love you” and couldn’t stop the welled-up tears from rolling over my eyelids, when the doctor said “That’s good, just keep talking to him that way.” I said “bye-bye sweetheart”, trying to keep from sobbing, and then it was over. Just like that.

I won’t belabor the scene at the front desk, where I was allowed to put down 30 dollars in scrambled bills and change, and where I was informed I could work out a payment plan for the rest I owed, which was significant, but that I would have to call the next day and speak to someone about setting it up. It’s just how it is right now, I will pay them eventually, and I am grateful that they did whatever they could do. But I would like to add that I have become aware, that if you are poor, people tend to dismiss you or assume you have no brains. Not that these people did that in any offensive way, just a note. I have the same brains now that I had when I was getting tons of money every week in a “great” job I began to abhor just a few years into a rather miserable career experience during which I fell ill several times over a span of 23 years. Make no mistake about that.

They brought Titus out wrapped in a little white coffin-shaped box, which made everyone in the waiting room gasp. A kind man with tenderness on his face, opened the door for me as I left. The assistant carried out the crate I’d brought Titus in with, and she looked me in the eye and said “I’m so sorry” and I believe she meant it, I thanked her and asked her to thank everyone for me and I got back in the car, with Titus on the passenger seat, and drove back. Upon our arrival, I brought Titus in, and placed his little box on the spot where he’d last been, because ALL of the cats had witnessed his distress, and had taken note of what was going on. I have to add that Titus was beloved by EVERY ONE of the cats. He just was friends with EVERYBODY, though he had a special closeness with Wendi and Rowena, both of whom slinked up and sniffed their good-byes. The cats have been extraordinarily quiet all day and I also noted that the food bowls had been only sparingly touched. Just FYI.

An hour or so later, a good friend came and we dug the grave and buried Titus near the flower garden. Then we went upstairs and shared a cup of tea. Then I spent an hour-and-a-half scooping, watering, feeding, cleaning. Then I went to see my mother, still in my ratty clothes. Happy Mothers Day, amen.

titus handsome